Now, they might get their leading scorer back and just in time, too.
Ovechkin could be available Saturday night when the Capitals visit the red-hot Devils, who seek their eighth consecutive victory.
Washington (12-3-4) leads the East by two points over New Jersey (13-4-0), but the Capitals didn't appear as if they would be in position to surge to the top of the conference after losing Ovechkin -- the two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner -- to an upper-body injury during an overtime loss to Columbus on Nov. 1.
The Capitals dropped the first game without Ovechkin, falling 3-2 at New Jersey on Nov. 4. However, they've won four in a row since to match their longest run of the season.
Washington extended its streak with Friday's 3-1 win over Minnesota to move alone atop the conference. Bruce Boudreau's team also leads the NHL with 73 goals, and Ovechkin remains tied with Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar with an NHL-best 14 tallies despite missing nearly two weeks.
"If they're like me, I want to be No. 1 in everything," Boudreau said. "I've let them know where they stand. No matter what you're playing, you like to be on top, and right now we are."
Ovechkin's potential return may be coming at a key time, as the Capitals lost Mike Knuble for three to four weeks on Friday with a broken finger that will require surgery. The veteran right wing has five goals and 10 assists in his first season with Washington after signing a free-agent deal in July.
Ovechkin had two assists, but saw his shootout attempt saved by Martin Brodeur in a 3-2 loss to the Devils on Oct. 12. He has six goals and 13 assists in 17 games against New Jersey.
The Devils return home for one game after beating Pittsburgh 4-1 on Thursday to run their road winning streak to nine consecutive games, one shy of the record to start a season set by Buffalo in 2006-07. They'll try to equal the mark on Monday in Philadelphia.
"Honestly, I don't even pay attention to that record," defenseman Bryce Salvador said. "We're just really trying to be consistent. We're hoping the road play starts rubbing off at home and we'll start a good streak there, too."
New Jersey has won three in a row at the Prudential Center to even its record there at 4-4-0, and the seven-game winning streak is the club's longest since an eight-game run from Jan. 13-30.
Brodeur lost his first two starts of the season, but is 11-2-0 with a 1.89 goals-against average and one shutout in 13 games since. He's won his last five with a 1.38 GAA.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner is still one shutout away from tying Terry Sawchuk's NHL record of 103. His last shutout came in a win over Carolina on Oct. 17, and he has six in his career versus Washington.
While Brodeur may have a tough time matching the record on Saturday, he's 11-2-0 with a 2.41 GAA in his last 13 games against the Capitals.